The Mother of Invention

Every bowling center encounters Murphys’ Law. This means the worst possible breakdown will occur at the most inconvenient time. And to make the situation worse, you won't have the critical part needed in the back room. These are the scenarios that test even the most seasoned mechanic. A necessary part is not on hand, or a time-consuming crisis breakdown delays or postpones a league.

Lacking the needed part, most technicians will call a nearby center and ask to borrow it. But not all centers are on friendly terms. Distributors, if they have the item, may need several days to deliver it.

In the case of a simple to remove part, it can be transferred from an unused machine, but of course, this still leaves a machine unusable.  In some situations, the broken part can be taken to a local shop and repaired or duplicated. This can be very costly, but it could be less than the lost revenue from a broken down machine.

Many times, imagination will outshine the above mentioned solutions. Pinsetter technicians can and do rebuild, redesign, and reconfigure parts when the need arises. Some of these ideas are out of crisis and others come from nuisance problems.

No materials are out of consideration when trying to construct a required part in an emergency situation. Scrap iron, lumber and various types of rubberized parts find their way into the machines. Some work quite well, often performing as well as or better than the original manufactures’ parts. I have seen pool cues, garden hoses, shop rags and hose clamps used on pinsetters to get a machine through a league session. I am certain there are even stranger things that have been employed in an emergency.

Nearly all mechanics will remove these "emergency engineered" items when the correct part arrives. They'll keep their new found repair item on the shelf, awaiting the possibility of another need for it. While many great ideas are born from springs and duct tape when haste was a priority, these "quick fixes" should be removed as the correct parts arrive.

Scores of these emergency repairs fail miserably. Others are extremely simple, leaving one wondering why the machine was originally designed in such a complex manner.                                                                                   

Of course, most capital equipment suppliers do not recommend modifying their machines. Doing so can void warranties and in some cases circumvent safety features. The safety features of your machines are there for your best interests and should not be tampered with.

Some purists might say that the need for a quick fix is unfounded. If the mechanic is doing his job correctly, breakdowns will never occur. While this is a somewhat true statement, as with most things in life, there are always going to be unseen circumstances.

Imagination is not just limited to parts. Many times a tool that is pinsetter specific is unavailable or just has not yet been invented. Hands on experience with the machine will give insight to allow a fertile mind to explore the possibilities of tool design. A majority of mechanics will agree that there are times when a third and fourth hand would be of great assistance. Science has yet to genetically alter us to that specification. However, many mechanics have constructed tools to allow them to perform duties that once required another person.

There are numerous mechanic designed tools on the market. Most are constructed to save time, money and knuckles. Several allow for safe removal and replacement of items that can be very dangerous if not done with the correct tool.

Several of the pin and ball cleaning cloths being used today were once a bowling towel that was held to a piece of frame work with a clothespin. Most have been refined into the current configurations we see in the supply catalogs. Yet the humble bowling towel is still the material of choice for many mechanics in the effort to keep balls and pins clean during an unusual situation.

Most manufacturers have a very open mind to the ideas that are born on the "battlefield." A lot of mechanics have received monetary compensation for ideas that have been turned into sellable products.

The imagination of the maintenance staff can reach mind boggling heights, designing everything from the above mentioned parts and tools to building electrical devices to replace often outdated and or obsolete parts.

It's easy to be prepared for the "expected" things. It's the things that come out of the blue that will test your patience. Use your imagination to find a solution.  With a little quick thinking and imagination, you can be up and running again. I guess Mr. Murphy never ran into a bowling mechanic with a roll of duct tape and some electrical wire ties.

Bill Walters

Currently Bill is Kegel's Pinsetter Parts Technical Support Coordinator. He has over 34 years of experience on Brunswick Model A and A-2 pinsetters and 8 years of experience on Brunswick GSX pinsetters.